JST Canary Islands Voyage; 28th December 2010-5th January 2011
In the early hours of morning and with a clear view of the stars, the gentle lapping of waves against the hull of a ship is enough to convince anyone that nothing quiet compares to life at sea. On the bridge of the Jubilee sailing trust’s tall ship, Lord Nelson, we watched the sun rise over an unbroken horizon as we travelled to the small island of La Gomera which, as with all the islands of the Gran Canarys, is a formation of steep volcanic rock. It was not long before these mountainous forms arose that the call for breakfast awoke the sleeping crew, relieving us from our (be it much enjoyed) watch duty.
After 5 days onboard, we had by now discovered that the routine gathering in the lower mess was certainly something to look forward to. With a build-up of anticipation to what would next appear out of the lift from the kitchen, and with todays pick of mess duty (those helping in the kitchen) serving cups of tea and coffee, breakfast was the perfect preparation for what was to follow- Happy Hour! This did not mean a cheap round at the bar, but a quick scrub down of the deck before calling in at the next port, a picturesque Spanish town. We holiday crew-members were privileged to be able to steer 'Nelly' into and out of port under the command of the highly skilled and experienced ‘Capitan Clare’. But the job of helm was only one part of the operation and with linesmen, the Dotti boat and the gangway to put in place, it really was all hands on deck; not a free hand was to be seen. Of course, this lead to a tremendous amount of teamwork and there was always an all-round sense of achievement when the ship slotted neatly into place, gangway lowered.
After initially leaving port at Gran Canary's 'Las Palmas' and spending New Year’s Eve showered by fireworks in Santa Cruz, I found La Gomera one of my most enjoyed stop-offs, ultimately untouched by the tourism. Here, I was lucky enough to get a proper tour of the island (joined by older sister Liz and the two Alisons- both teachers) as a taxi driver, clearly proud of his island (and for good reason), showed us round. For the rest of the crew, a day of swimming and topping up the tan was clearly in order and the black sand beaches surrounding the port posed as an ideal destination. After driving through the national park and improving my Spanish, the approaching evening lead to the crew reconvening for a well deserved treat ; out for dinner to sample the local cuisine. An early morning meant an early night for my watch as we planned to leave port by 10.00.
The following morning, Watch Leader Terry asked if either Liz or I wanted to have the opportunity of helming the ship out of port. After a short discussion we decided that I could have a go and not much later, I found myself on deck, wheel in hand listening to the call of 10 degrees port whilst Nelly delicately rotated and sailed out to sea. The slight puff of wind was enough to call for sails to be hoisted. Unfortunately, the breeze deteriorated during the day and with the sea becoming completely flat, resulted in a leisurely drift in the water between La Gomera and Tenerife. However, this gave us an ideal opportunity to perfect our climbing, something I had struggled with at the beginning of the week but was determined to improve on. Four of us decided to make the ascent to the top of the highest mast, made even more challenging by the rock of the boat. With the encouragement and help of the others, I was able to reach the summit to be rewarded with a stunning view of the area.
As well as the ongoing working onboard, I was able to participate in Leadership at Sea where a group of us had to fulfil a number of activities every other day, getting tours of the ship in normally unseen areas such as the engine room. This gave us a better insight into the organisation of the ship and was also quite good fun!
With a mixed ability, a range of ages and nationalities, all of the 28 members plus permanent crew created a family of shipmates; everyone had a role, regardless of their physical ability and it was very much 'part of the crew, part of the ship'. I met some incredibly determined and inspiring individuals and made life-long friends. The JST is incomparable to any other charity, and a unique working holiday, which can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone. I would like to thank my sponsors, Royal Thames Yacht Club and the JST for allowing me to have this unforgettable experience.